Passengers on Britain’s budget airlines are spending longer than ever inflight — with a “no-frills” service now topping six hours for the first time.
Conventional wisdom has long held that passengers will be reluctant to put up with high-density seating and lack of inflight entertainment for anything more than a few hours. But easyJet and its Irish rival, Ryanair, both have flights over six hours long.
The Independent has surveyed all the low-cost carriers to find their longest and shortest flights that start or end in the UK. The prize for the longest is still with easyJet between Britain and Egypt. Previously it was the Manchester-Sharm el Sheikh route, a trip of 2,551 miles.
For the past 15 months, though, the airport at Egypt’s premier resort has been off limits to UK carriers because of Foreign Office fears about security. The current longest route is the 2,434-mile stretch from Hurghada to Gatwick. But because of a routing which is more circuitous to avoid sensitive areas in the Sinai, the “block time” — between the start of pushback and arrival at the gate — is actually longer, at six hours five minutes.
This involves significantly more time being spent in a small, narrow-bodied aircraft than many “long-haul” routes on big planes. For example, British Airways uses a long-haul Boeing 777 on its Heathrow-Moscow link, with a journey time of three hours 40 minutes. And Air Canada’s transatlantic Halifax-Heathrow flight is only five hours 50 minutes.
The Hurghada-Gatwick is not the longest for a European airline in terms of total distance. The Ryanair flight from Stockholm Skavsta to Tenerife South covers a distance of 2,688 miles, and takes the same elapsed time (six hours five minutes) as the easyJet service.
Ryanair’s longest flight from a UK airport is from Edinburgh to Gran Canaria, a distance of 2,025 miles. It is easily beaten by both Monarch, which flies 2,351 between Manchester and Tel Aviv, and Jet2 between Glasgow and Larnaca in Cyprus at 2,303 miles.
Flybe’s longest route is just 1,185 miles, between Doncaster and Faro in Portugal.
The longest service in the history of the Scottish regional airline, Loganair, is actually shorter than the shortest flight of Monarch. Loganair’s seasonal Glasgow-Guernsey route covers 452 miles, while Monarch’s shortest, Gatwick-Lyon, is a distance of 461 miles. However, in May Loganair will launch a link from Glasgow to Bergen in Norway at 467 miles.
The shortest flight on the Jet2 network is 287 miles from Leeds/Bradford to Amsterdam. Other airlines have much shorter operations, in which barely have you taken off than the descent begins: Glasgow-City of Derry on Ryanair is only 127 miles; easyJet’s Liverpool to the Isle of Man link is 89 miles; and Flybe’s shortest hop is from Guernsey to Jersey, at 24 miles.
The world’s shortest flight, though, remains Loganair’s link between Westray and Papa Westray in Orkney. The distance is just 1.7 miles, and the scheduled flying time is two minutes. Passengers are awarded a certificate and a miniature of whisky by the captain.